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Wireless Reviews

Performance

NETGEAR's shipment announcement hypes the 3700's "extreme performance" and touts "a 680 MHz processor, 500 Mbps WAN to LAN speeds and 350 Mbps real-world maximum wireless throughput". So let's poke at this a bit.

Manufacturers love to throw numbers at us, at least as long as they aren't actual wireless range and speed, which they have largely stopped quoting. Although a "680 MHz processor" sounds impressive, it alone doesn't determine routing or wireless performance.

Even though the WRT400N uses the same AR7161 processor, both its WAN to LAN and LAN to WAN (routing) speeds were held to 93 Mbps due to the 400N's 100 Mbps WAN and LAN ports. But if the processor really had that much horsepower to spare, I would have expected total simultaneous throughput to be closer to 180 Mbps (the sum of up and downlink speeds), instead of the ~150 Mbps that I measured. At least the WRT400N had no problem hitting the 200 Mbps simultaneous connection test limit.

So let's say I'm witholding judgement on NETGEAR's "500 Mbps WAN to LAN" routing speed claim until I get the product on the bench. And even if it does hit that number, you probably don't have an Internet connection that's anywhere near benefiting from it!

Since dual-stream draft 11n routers, which include the WNDR3700, are limited to maximum link rates of 300 Mbps, the claim of "350 Mbps real-world maximum wireless throughput" definitely smells like "creative" marketing to me.

A bit more insight comes from reading a bit farther down the NETGEAR press release, i.e. a statement that the router "yields real-world Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) throughput of up to 350 Mbps combined". So this means NETGEAR is adding together the throughput of both radios.

Since I don't have a 3700 to test, I'll use data from the WRT400N. Wireless testing of the WRT400N revealed a maximum speeds of 65 Mbps downlink and 68 Mbps uplink, including both bands and 20 and 40 MHz channel-bonded modes. In fact, channel bonding didn't seem to provide much of a throughput boost with the WRT400N.

But even if I round up to 70 Mbps, and count it twice (for each radio running simultaneously), 140 Mbps still falls far short of the 350 Mbps claim. It could be that the WRT400N's 100 Mbps LAN port was limiting tested speed. If that's the case, then the 3700's Gigabit LAN ports could allow it to reach even higher throughput.

But the highest speed I have measured from any wireless router is 111 Mbps for the D-Link DIR-685 (which has Gigabit Ethernet ports) running downlink, channel-bonded in 2.4 GHz. Even if I double that, 222 Mbps still ain't anywhere near 350 Mbps. So I have to say that it's highly unlikely that you'll see anywhere near 350 Mbps of "real world" TCP/IP wireless throughput from the WNDR3700, or any dual-stream draft 11n router, for that matter.

Features

NOTE!The final WNDR3700 User Manual is not yet available for download. So the following analysis is based on the July 2009 "Beta" User Manual, submitted to the FCC.

Please excuse the poor screenshot quality. The images were taken from the Beta User manual, and are low resolution.

Let's start with the "green" features. As much as I dislike saying negative things about manufacturers' "green" efforts, the power savings from the switch port auto-shutoff feature might amount to a Watt or so. And I doubt that anyone will use the transmit power controls to conserve energy as the press release suggests. So buying the 3700 isn't going to help much to preserve the artic ice for the polar bears.

But five of the 3700's features bear further exploration: the ReadyShare USB drive network sharing; ReadyDLNA DLNA / UPnP AV media serving; Broadband Usage Meter; QoS; and multiple SSIDs.

The ReadyShare feature converts a single USB or flash drive attached to the single USB 2.0 port into a networked share. The data sheet says FAT16/32, NTFS Read/Write, Ext 2 Read/Write and Ext 3 Read/Write formats are supported.

Figure 5 shows the Advanced settings for the feature. Note that HTTP and FTP file access are supported. But you can't create additional users. So the only sharing options are open access and password protection using the router's administration password (not such a great idea). And unlike the Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH, ReadyShare doesn't include a BitTorrent download client.

ReadyShare Advanced settings

Figure 5: ReadyShare Advanced settings

Don't be thinking that ReadyShare will save you from investing in a real NAS. This post indicates that a 3.8 GB file transfer took 23 minutes, which is around 2.8 MB/s.

The ReadyDLNA feature was added via V1.0.4.35NA firmware that just posted yesterday, according to this NETGEAR forums post. It's not mentioned in the Beta User Manual and it's even missing on the WNDR3700 product page and data sheet.

This feature certainly wasn't required to support NETGEAR's EVA9150 and EVA8000 media players, since they can browse network shares directly to find content. So its real value is to support media players that can't browse for content, such as XBox 360 and PS3. Note that this feature doesn't include an iTunes server.

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